poverty, money, and me

Culture11 is one of my favorite new sites.  A good friend shined me on to it after nearly going to work for them.  It’s a conservative group of good thinkers and writers.  They discuss all manner of interesting stuff, and they do it well.

In this article they discuss the state of charitable giving in the U.S.  They paint a bleak picture of American’s “generosity.” It should be noted, that America, overall, remains one of the most charitable countries in history, the question is whether we are doing enough with that with which we’ve been blessed.

What’s encouraging for those of us that claim to be evangelicals, is that “our group” tends to give more than any other in America.  What’s not-so-encouraging, is that on average we give only 3.4% of our income, what’s even less encouraging is that represents 21% LESS than Americans in the dust bowl/great depression era.

Imagine that…those who lived through the worst economic downturn in U.S. history were 21% more generous than those of us who are still living in unprecedented affluence.

There are encouraging things as well.  New groups are forming with a renewed focus on generosity and giving back to those less fortunate.  Bono’s latest venture, (RED)WIRE, is a prime example.  50% of the profits from the online music magazine/distribution channel go to purchase medicine for Africans with AIDS.

But it seems that there is far too little going on.  Far too few people with the ability to give are doing so.  In Culture 11’s article they mention that American church-goers (not Americans in general, just those that go to church) have $5.2 trillion annually in income.  That’s such a staggering number it’s hard to understand what it could actually do.  So let me break that down a little bit.

There are approximately 6.7 billion people on planet earth.  If American church-goers gave 10% of their income ($520 billion) that would be enough to give every non-American on earth roughly $100.  Considering nearly 50% of the world lives under $2.50/day it makes a difference. So if you take the $100/person away from those who need it less and add to those who need it more, you have a few months living expenses paid for every person on earth. Or maybe medicine for those with disease, or education to break the poverty cycle, or clothing, or adequate shelter, etc.

I think the simplest way to say it is this:  Christians have far more money, cumulatively, than we think we do.  If we all simply tithed, even if it were only on our expendable income,  imagine how much better we could make the world.

Here’s hoping we learn to.

As a follow up – check out this video for a way to do something simple, and effective.

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One thought on “poverty, money, and me

  1. I couldn’t agree more with the idea that Americans need to be more generous; and I’ll second the notion that perhaps evangelicals should lead the pack.

    However, I’m not ready to jump on board the “consumerism at Christmas is evil” train, which has been chugging along for years, BTW.

    If at Christmas, my motivation for giving to my family and friends is simply for PR or to motivate reciprocation, then sure, I think I’ve missed the point. But if I’m giving just to give and make someone happy, and if I consider myself a Christian, to celebrate the birth of Christ and everything He represented to the world (God’s greatest gift to us and all that), what is wrong with me being my MOST generous at Christmas and doing so with my closest friends and family?

    Isn’t that what organizations like Advent Conspiracy are asking me to do? Give less to those people so that I can give more to strangers? I’m not saying that’s a bad thing since everyone on my Christmas list this year is both American and comparatively wealthy. Though should I feel guilty for spending so much at Christmas on those closest to me? Maybe that’s a version of selfishness on some kind of socioeconomic level.

    So as much as I love the idea of solving poverty, I don’t necessarily love the idea of gift giving at Christmas (thus, gift buying at Christmas) being evil.

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